He was born Shawn Corey Carter, but the rap world knows him as Jay Z. He’s one of the biggest figures in the legend of this unique genre of music.. He never graduated high school, and he sold illegal substances on the street, but he became Jay Z thanks to his 1996 debut album, “Reasonable Doubt.”
He brought hip-hop back to life thanks to his amazing flow and fire lyrics, and he has the most number-one albums of any solo artist ever. He’s also a savvy businessman as an owner of Tidal and numerous record companies.
Jesse Jackson – Civil Rights Activist and Politician
Born in 1941, Jackson survived the tumultuous civil rights movement and plenty more to become one of the foremost activists and politicians for Black advancement. Many believe that if not for the groundwork he laid, a Black president might have never happened.
Beginning in the eighties, Jackson won Democratic primaries and caucuses on a shoestring budget, shocking the Democratic party. Becoming a leader in the Democratic party, he finished as a runner-up to the Democratic nominee, Michael Dukakis, in the 1988 presidential election. Jackson's image has taken some hits in recent years, but he deserves plenty of accolades for pushing for the next step.
Michael Jackson – Singer-Songwriter
The King of Pop needs no introduction. Even if you aren't a huge music fan, there's probably a tune or two from this legendary figure that runs through your head every once in a while. With a career spanning five decades (despite passing at the age of fifty-one), his album “Thriller,” had an absolutely astounding seven top-ten singles on the “Billboard” Hot 100, and it garnered an incredible eight Grammys.
If we put aside controversy and rumors, and not to mention failing health for a number of reasons, his legacy lives on nearly every time you turn on the pop stations.
Katherine Johnson – Mathematician and Physicist
Who among us hasn't thought about what it might be like to work for NASA? Katherine Johnson is just like the rest of us, except she actually made it there. Johnson was part of a team that helped astronaut John Glenn circle before Apollo Eleven touched down on the moon's surface.
She worked in a pool of black women that worked on math calculations. This was in the fifties, long before the civil rights movement, and for a long time, this story was forgotten – until the recent movie “Hidden Figures” brought it to light.
Quincy Jones – Music Producer, Songwriter, and Activist
He was born in Washington, but he spent most of his life in the Chicagoland area, and he's been jamming for almost six decades. He's provided soundtracks to some of the biggest moments in music history, and he's had a hand in plenty of memorable albums, too.
He and his musical partner were the first Black composers nominated for an Academy Award in 1968 for the film “Banning.” He has an amazing seventy-nine Grammy noms, he's won twenty-seven, and he has a Grammy Legend Award from 1991. We also have him to thank for some of Michael Jackson's best music.